Déjà vu for Temple in A-10 quarterfinal loss to UMass

Déjà vu for Temple in A-10 quarterfinal loss to UMass
March 16, 2013, 1:30 am
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Khalif Wyatt had 19 points but shot just 4 for 19 against UMass. (USA Today Images)

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NEW YORK -- Friday night was a miserable one for the Temple Owls.

The next 48 hours might be even worse.

The Owls were dealt a 79-74 loss by Massachusetts on Friday in an Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinal matchup at the Barclays Center and must now wait to see if they are chosen for the NCAA tourney on Selection Sunday (see Instant Replay).

“I guess it’s up in the air. There’s nothing we can really control for these next two days,” senior guard Khalif Wyatt said. “We’re just going to go back to Philly, get some rest, wait for Sunday and hope that our name gets called.”

Third-seeded Temple (23-9) tried to keep its fate in its own hands but No. 6 seed UMass (21-10) wouldn’t allow that to happen, as it eliminated Temple for the second straight year in the A-10 tournament.

“For the second year in a row, UMass did a good job against us to find a way to win,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. “I think there’s a little bit of an advantage when you can play on Thursday, a little bit of an advantage on Friday. Then the advantage goes the other way when you get a little bit deeper. We were a little bit fresher early, but we didn’t take advantage of it. They turned it over a lot in the first half and we didn’t take advantage. They made shots in that second half and we came up a little bit short.”

None of those shots were bigger than Terrell Vinson’s lone three-pointer.

Trailing by two points with under a minute left in the game, Temple nearly forced UMass into a 10-second violation. However, the Minutemen were able to scramble across the halfcourt line in time before finding Vinson on the wing. He buried a three right over Jake O’Brien with 33 seconds remaining to push the Minutemen’s lead to five and deliver the knockout punch to the Owls.

“I think our run last year in the A-10 tournament and then the NIT, I think the guys have matured a little bit in that situation,” UMass head coach Derek Kellogg said. “I think it helped us today.”

That pinpoint execution wasn’t limited to offense for UMass. While UMass was no match for Temple forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists), the Minutemen absolutely smothered Wyatt, the newly-minted Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. Wyatt never found a rhythm in the game en route to scoring 19 points on just 4-of-19 shooting.

“I had some good looks. The team just kept coming to me and trusting me. The ball just wasn’t going in,” Wyatt said. “I took some tough shots. Maybe I could have made a couple extra passes, but I was just trying to make plays. The ball just wasn’t going in today.”

“They hounded him. I’m sure they said to themselves let’s make it very difficult to score,” Dunphy said. “As much as he didn’t shoot it particularly well, he typically gets more than two assists in a game. He was limited that way. I thought their defense was good and they hounded him with a couple different players to include Chaz [Williams]. Chaz has got some speed and quickness to him. I thought they did a really good job against him.

“He probably did try to do a little bit too much," Dunphy said of Wyatt, "but he’s done some great, great things for us over the year and in his career.”

Williams had no such trouble on offense. The diminutive guard got wherever and whatever he wanted on the floor against Temple, scoring a game-high 28 points to go along with five assists and four rebounds.

“Chaz Williams is one of the best players in the conference. He’s relentless,” Wyatt said. “He definitely leads his group. He was real tough down the stretch and made some winning plays that helped his team get over the edge.”

Now the Owls must deal with life on the edge. Temple’s resume suggests it should be in the NCAA tournament. Still, you just never know when the ball is no longer in your hands.

“I can’t sit here and say I’m confident,” Dunphy said. “I think Khalif mentioned it, but we don’t have any control at this point. We had our control today and we didn’t do a very good job with it or a good enough job with it. We didn’t do as good a job as UMass did, so we’re at the mercy of the committee to see if we can get in the tournament and we’ll see what happens.”